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Fraser: Goaltenders and the NHL's trapezoid rule

Kerry Fraser
1/8/2014 1:33:59 PM
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Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry wants to answer your emails at cmonref@tsn.ca.

Hi Kerry,
 
Since the trapezoid was introduced, I have yet to see a goalie be penalized for playing the puck outside of the trapezoid. Jonathan Bernier came close last night. He was so concerned with not getting a penalty that he allowed a goal to be scored!
 
I know he would have been penalized if he played the puck with his stick. Could he have kicked the puck over the goal line and then played it with his stick without being penalized?
 
Wayne Sharp
(son of Jim from Ann St.)
 
Hi Wayne,

I share many fond memories with your father as a couple of kids in the old neighborhood in Sarnia, Ontario.

You might not have seen a goalie penalized for playing the puck outside the restricted area, but once the trapezoid rule was introduced I called it on two separate occasions. One time, the correct call was made. The other time, I flat out blew the call.

I don't remember the goalie that was guilty and properly convicted, but I sure remember the time I penalized Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres unjustly. This further verifies my contention that referees never remember any of the 'good calls' they made; only the ones they missed!

The blown call happened in Buffalo when Miller came well out of his goal crease to stop the puck just ahead of the goal line. Miller carried the puck back toward the safety of his cage and as he approached the trapezoid two feet from where it 'T-eed' into the goal line, Miller slid the puck over the line.

It appeared from my position that the goalie maintained contact with the puck as it travelled on his stick from ahead of the goal line, through the unplayable area and into the safety of the trapezoid. I immediately raised my arm, stopped play and assessed a delay of game penalty to Ryan Miller. Miller argued vehemently, but to no avail, that he had purposely removed his stick from the puck as it travelled through 'no man's land' and then re-connected with the puck in the trapezoid. 

Miller was still hot under the mask at the next stoppage of play, so I solicited his honest take on the play. Once Miller advised me that he had lifted his stick blade and moved it in sync just above the puck until it crossed the trapezoid line, his argument was justified. Even though it all made sense at this point, the information I received was too little, too late! 

I then suggested that if the goalie intended to pass the puck to himself outside the trapezoid he should lift his stick clearly away from the puck so another referee would not be fooled in the same way I had been. When I further explained my misperception of the play to the Sabres goalie coach, he told me that Ryan should not have run that risk by keeping his stick so close to the puck and he would speak with him about it.

Jonathan Bernier would have surely been assessed a delay of game penalty last night had he decided to play the puck in any manner, including by kicking it with his skate. The hesitation that Bernier demonstrated to avoid playing the puck in the restricted area prevented him from retreating to his goal crease in time to properly defend against the shot and resulted in a goal. 

Wayne, Rule 27.8 (Restricted Area) defines the position of the puck and not the goalkeeper's skates as the determining factor. The one caveat to that is unless the goalkeeper plays the puck while maintaining skate contact with his goal crease. Given the size and reach of many of the goalkeepers in the game today maintaining contact with the goal crease and playing the puck outside the restricted area is a distinct possibility.

Kerry Fraser

Kerry Fraser


Kerry Fraser is an analyst for the NHL on TSN and That's Hockey 2Nite on TSN2. As one of the league's most recognizable senior referees, he's worked 1,904 NHL regular season games and 261 playoff games during his 37-year career.


Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry wants to answer your emails at cmonref@tsn.ca!


You can also follow Kerry Fraser on Twitter at @kfraserthecall!

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